Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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Social media is causing me a lot of angst lately. I know we need to be active online and we have a firm LinkedIn page as well as our own individual pages that we keep updated. We post blogs and articles we find interesting and many times clients or colleagues will comment.
It’s the personal side of things that is confusing to me. I have my own Facebook page and because I have college-aged kids I am active on Instagram too. I consider these my personal accounts where I might post something about my family, or a reaction to something happening in the world. I am careful not to post religious or political opinions given the sensitivity everyone seems to have lately for these. But I do have a personality and it comes through on my personal pages.
The problem is my clients often send me invites to connect with me. Some know me well. I consider them to be friends, and I have no problem accepting their connection but some are either newer clients or ones where I don’t believe I have a really good “friendship” where I want them to know all about me.
I might be overreacting. But, here is an example: I recently bought a second home. It’s very nice and looks expensive, but there is a story around it. I helped a family in trouble by purchasing it, and they rent it out at a discount from me and so on. I don’t want to share everything publicly to protect this family, but I eventually do want to rent out the home to other renters so I would like publicize its beautiful features on my social media. If a client saw it I fear they might wonder where their fees are going.
On another personal note, I have a son who is a good kid but who is kind of lost. Sometimes my wife will post something and tag me and she is doing it tongue-in-cheek (you have to understand her style to know where she is coming from). Clients who don’t know us might think we are not good parents.
People misconstrue things in public forums and I value my reputation. Do I simply ignore the social-media invites or respond to clients saying I don’t mix personal and business and encourage them to join me on LinkedIn? What is the protocol for this?
Having an online presence is good and necessary but sometimes being too connected can pose challenges. It sounds like you are doing well keeping an active professional presence. Have you been proactive when a client signs up asking them to follow your firm’s LinkedIn page, or to connect with you directly on LinkedIn? I wonder whether presenting an invitation to connect professionally might obviate their desire to learn more about you personally.
On the personal connections, I understand the issue well. I have dozens of people sitting in my “invite” list right now that I’ve not accepted because either I’m not sure who they are, or I’m not sure if I should be more connected to them! It’s a difficult balance to strike when you are in a business that is professional and yet quite personal too.
You could reach out to the client and say you keep your personal FB page and Instagram account private and only have close friends and family, but if there are other clients you have connected with and they can see this or talk to another client about it, that could become problematic. My strong leaning is to ignore the invitations where you are not comfortable. Your other option is to accept all of them and then implement rigor around what you post always thinking about the audience who might see it.
On one hand, you should be able to be authentic and clients often trust you more when they know you are being truthful and open, but on the other hand, especially in these times, there is so much misinterpretation and aggression toward what someone believes or might post that you could run a risk with clients you don’t know as well, leaving yourself open to their filters on what you are doing.
Ultimately, it is a very personal decision. I’d be interested, as always, in what other advisors have done to address this issue as I’m sure you are not the only one who might be facing this!
We have a leadership change at our firm. One of our senior partners is retiring and leaving as of the end of 2020. This has been planned for quite some time and she has been talking to her clients and sharing her plans. She had a junior advisor she was grooming to take over the clients and they have worked together closely for the last 24 months. Clients really liked this young woman and were comfortable with her.
The problem is that this junior advisor became very ill with COVID and was hospitalized. She spent weeks in recovery and once she was somewhat ready to return she let us know the experience had taught her she needs to refocus her life and no longer wants to be an advisor. It has nothing to do with our firm (we were very supportive while she was ill) and nothing to do with this senior partner.
We’re concerned about both timing and perception of our clients. They know “Sarah” was sick but we didn’t share it was COVID-related but they don’t know she isn’t returning. The end of the year is coming upon us very fast and we need a strategy for how to deal with this transition. There is no one in the firm in a junior role who could step in within one quarter and be ready to step into our partner’s shoes. A couple of us who are senior partners could take over the management but our departing partner is not comfortable divvying up these clients given our already burdensome client management numbers.
Do we ask her to stay? Do we tell clients the whole truth and ask them to bear with us? Do we quickly hire a new person?
What does your departing senior partner think about all of this and what does she want to do? In my experience from decades of working with advisors, their clients are like family to them. They care deeply about the clients, and the relationship. Has she been a part of the discussions about how to handle this? It seems like it requires all of you to get into a room and address this as an obstacle and brainstorm the different choices you have at this point and the associated pros and cons that go along with each of them.
It sounds like you are struggling to make this decision without input or ideas from the person who is most central to this decision and whose clients are the ones impacted. If you can get together and brainstorm and take an objective approach it would be best.
And I agree that clients don’t need to know the medical specifics of someone’s life but it is reasonable to share with them she is pursuing a career change and will no longer be working in the advisory business. You could let them know she has chosen another path outside of the industry for the ultimate messaging – once you decide what path you will pursue.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.
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